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Government & Politics

U.S. Justice Department to Investigate Columbus Police Shooting

a photo of David DeVillers
Nick Evans
/
WOSU
David DeVillers is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio

Federal authorities are taking the lead on an investigation into the death of Casey Goodson Jr., who was fatally shot by a Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy last Friday.

In a press release Tuesday, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David M. DeVillers announced his office will review the case and "take appropriate action if the evidence indicates any federal civil rights laws were violated."
Other agencies involved in the probe include the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, the Cincinnati Division of the FBI and the Columbus Division of Police.

“After being briefed about the circumstances surrounding the incident by CPD, I believe a federal investigation is warranted,” DeVillers said. “I have contacted the FBI and have requested that they work in conjunction with CPD to investigate this case through our office."

Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan said they welcome the involvement of the Justice Department.

“Columbus Police are eminently qualified to investigate and get to the truth of this tragedy,” Quinlan said. “Independent of our investigation, bringing in the Department of Justice brings all of the resources of the federal government to answer the critical civil rights questions being posed by the community. This offers the highest level of transparency and a clear path to the truth.”

Goodson, 23, was shot and killed by Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Meade on Friday. The U.S. Marhsal says Meade was wrapping up an unsuccessful search for a suspect with its Service Fugitive Task Force when deputies encountered Goodson, who they said was "driving down the street waving a gun." Meade then went to confront Goodson, who was neither the person officers were looking for, nor the subject of any investigation.

Meade then shot and killed Goodson, and authorities say his gun was recovered from the scene. What happened leading up to the shooting remains a subject of contention: Franklin County Sheriff's deputies like Meade do not wear body cameras, and law enforcement have not provided details about his interaction with Goodson.

Family members say Goodson was shot while returning from the dentist, had just unlocked the side door and was carrying Subway sandwiches for his family. According to the family's lawyers, Walton + Brown, there were nine people in the house at the time, including four children, but none heard the conversation between Goodson and the deputy.

After Goodson was shot, his 5-year old brother reportedly found him lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of his blood. Goodson's family said he was shot at least once in the back, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz completed Goodson's autopsy on Tuesday morning, and says she will release the report Wednesday.

On Friday night, the Franklin County Sheriff's Office that "the suspect's weapon was recovered at the scene." Goodson's family disputes that, saying they did not see a gun on his body. However, Goodson did possess an up-to-date concealed carry license, and his family says he was contientious about gun safety.

On Monday, Columbus Police and the Sheriff's Office asked the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to take over the investigation into Goodson's death, but the state declined.

"We recieved a referral to take a three-day-old office-involved shooting case," said Steve Irwin with the Attorney General's Office. "Not knowing all the reasons as to why so much time has passed before the case was referred to BCI, we cannot accept this case."

While it's rare that the BCI would turn down a case, Irwin said it's rarer still that local authorities would wait three days after a shooting before involving them.

"BCI is the first call because we cannot be the subject matter experts unless we're on scene from the beginning to document the evidence of what happened from the start," Irwin says. "Three days after the crime scene has been dismantled and the witnesses have all dispersed does not work."

Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News.